Did Meredith Graves get a “good deal” from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. after she accepted his misdemeanor non-jail plea bargain? Did DA Vance do the “right thing” in offering a non-felony plea? Certainly, the technical answer to both of these questions is an unequivocal “yes.” After all, it is not as if Graves, a registered nurse and fourth year medical student, had a legal defense. She could not argue the police lacked probable cause to arrest her or that the firearm in her possession was recovered as a product of an illegal search. Further, as we all know, ignorance of the law is no defense. The practical reality was that other than mitigation, no other true defense existed. In a case such as this, getting prosecutors to deviate down from a mandatory three and one half year sentence on a felony to no incarceration on a misdemeanor is significant.
Despite the fact that the offer is a heck of a lot better than the mandatory prison Graves would have faced if convicted of Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Second Degree (New York Penal Law 265.03), there is a real issue that I believe prosecutors ignored in resolving this case. Yes, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office recognized that the firearm in Graves’ possession was illegally possessed in New York, but it was not an “illegal gun.” Graves had a licensed firearm with the proper permits from her home state (whatever they may be). If evidence established that the weapon was purchased illegally, defaced, used in a crime or was involved in weapon trafficking, DA Vance rightfully would have taken a less forgiving approach. Further, unlike an arrest where a firearm is recovered as a result of some other infraction or crime, Graves had attempted to turn in the firearm and check the weapon at Ground Zero when she learned she was unable to possess it there. It does not take a criminal lawyer to recognize that DA Vance took all of this into consideration when ultimately determining what he believed to be the best resolution to this case and deviating from a normal offer or deal.